interesting,,, has me wondering what the hell happened
|“What’s this? Another one?”
My older brother’s voice resounded through the house. Starved for entertainment, I followed the sound to the den. Rhyner stood beside our father’s desk, holding an antique telephone above his head as if challenging someone.
“Did you buy this, Marj?” He turned to me. I shook my head, moving to examine the phone more closely. Rhyner held it out of my reach, but I could see it well enough. Although old-fashioned, it showed no signs of aging.
“Is it a replica?” I asked. Our family had avidly collected antiques all of my life. I knew more about antiques than I could ever care to know. I was the only one who didn’t really like them.
“How am I supposed to know?” Rhyner exclaimed. “I certainly didn’t buy this piece of junk!”
This was the fifth antique item to just appear in our house. The first four—a lamp, a pen, a pair of glasses, and a camera—had all turned up in Rhyner’s room. They all came from the same era—around the time our British Colonial house had been built—and all looked brand new. The mystery annoyed everyone.
I was the only one not annoyed—I was freaked out. I’d been excited to move to the small tropical island of Singapore, and, furthermore, into an old bungalow built when Singapore was a British colony, but I’d become a little wary after I’d heard the stories. Neighbors had told us stories of 21 Hillside Drive being haunted. Some guy had apparently gotten murdered in it in the thirties. It really seemed strange to me that while everyone agreed on the same story, they all remembered a different family name, and none of them could remember whether the killer got caught.
When things just started mysteriously appearing, I attributed it to ghosts. My parents disregarded my fears, and my brothers laughed at them.
“What’s wrong with him, Marjery?” Ford wandered in. Of my three older brothers, Ford and Rhyner were exactly opposites while Basil fell somewhere in between. Ford and I got along best. And if asked to choose, Basil usually sided with us.
“Did you buy this?” Rhyner waved the phone in Ford’s face.
Ford blinked. “Do you really expect that little of me? Even Marjery can see that’s a cheap replica.”
I nodded my agreement.
“Oh! Throw it away!” Rhyner tossed the phone at Ford and stomped out of the room.
“Good grief,” I commented.
“I guess it’s a personal insult to Rhyner to have something so cheap taking up residence in his house. Look here,” Ford tugged on the wire. “It’s connected to the wall, and it’s one of those old-fashioned jacks too.” He knelt next to the wall and I joined him. The wire didn’t have a phone jack that could slide in and out of the socket; the wires went straight into a small round hole in the wall.
“Now who would do that?” Ford wondered.
“It’s weird.” Goose bumps popped up on my bare arms.
“Maybe it was Dad.”
“I don’t think so.”
While puzzling over this, we heard Basil and Rhyner arguing in the living room. Rhyner let out an annoyed grunt and stormed up the stairs. I followed Ford to the living room. Basil sat in a beautiful wing-backed chair that I’d never seen before. It didn’t match the living room at all, but I knew Mom would love to have it, replica or not.
I looked up the stairs to see Rhyner glaring at me. I quickly turned back to Basil.
“It’s rather comfortable; it can’t be too old,” Basil remarked. “I wonder where it came from.”
He looked at me with a strange expression. Ford followed his gaze and smiled.
“What’s up, Marj’? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I didn’t know, but maybe I had.
Before I could explain, the old-fashioned bell on the front gate rang. Basil got up to answer it, and Ford dropped into the chair.
“It is comfortable. I’m moving this to my room before Mom sees it.” He picked up the chair and headed for the stairs. Confused, I sank onto the couch.
I stayed there until I heard footsteps and voices enter the foyer. Voices with British accents—who could that be? Curiosity propelled me to the door, but at the door fear immobilized me.
The foyer was our foyer but not quite. The walls were white instead of blue, and a hat tree holding various hats and umbrellas was the only furniture. Basil and a man stood talking.
The man wore a black suit with a thin tie, and an overcoat though one hardly needed a coat in Singapore—the temperature never got below eighty. He had small glasses and a prim little moustache. As I stood watching, he took off his hat and handed it to my brother. Then, as he took off his coat, I caught sight of a gun under his suit jacket. My heart pounded. Guns were illegal in Singapore.
“Is all of your family home?” He asked in a thick British accent.
“I think we are—shall I gather them in the parlor for you?” Basil’s mouth moved, but the voice coming out had just as much of an accent as the other man.
I clasped my shaking hands together. Looking down I realized I no longer wore the jeans and t-shirt of a moment before—I wore a dress. A black dress. And Basil a black suit.
“There’s Marjery,” Basil said. “Go on in with her and I’ll round the others up. I’ll try and convince Mother to come, but she’s still a bit—upset.”
“Understandable, understandable.” The man nodded.
I didn’t have time to wonder what they were talking about for the man came over and took my hand.
“Miss Windsor, my deepest regrets for your recent loss.” He planted a kiss on my fingers. I resisted the urge to recoil—he had to be at least forty! “I am Inspector Maxwell.”
I couldn’t even force a smile as I pulled my hand away. I led him into the living room—not my living room, but the living room of this house—and sat down in a chair.
I didn’t know why, but I began to understand. Rhyner was dead, I knew that much. I also knew that he’d been murdered. I didn’t know how I knew, I just knew. I didn’t know why I wasn’t sad.
“You have a beautiful home—one of the newest on the island, I understand,” Inspector Maxwell attempted conversation.
I nodded. Where was Ford? I needed Ford.
Inspector Maxwell and I sat silently as my family made their way in one by one. Ford came last—he too wore a dark suit. I breathed. I would be okay now.
I reached for him, but he ignored me and crossed the room to sit in a chair by the wall. His eyes avoided me. A tear slid down my cheek and splashed on my hand.
Mother and Father sat side by side on the couch. They sat straight, not looking at anyone. Mother’s tears had ceased, but her red eyes evidenced their existence.
Basil sat in the chair beside me. He spied my lone tear and reached for my hand, but he wasn’t the brother I needed.
The inspector cleared his throat.
“Our investigations in Rhyner’s death keep leading us in the same direction,” he said. “We believe it was a family member.”
The room itself took in a gasp of disbelief.
“No!” I cried, surprised at my own British accent.
“I won’t take this,” Mother said in a hard, cold voice. “We are not murderers.”
“As of right now,” Inspector Maxwell continued. “You are all suspects. None of you are to leave the country until further notice.”
“We will do what we please! We are not suspects!” Mother stood, her hands clenched at her sides.
“Mrs. Windsor, I beg you—”
“No!” Mother held up one gloved hand. “I will hear no more! Leave my house at once.”
“I need to ask a few questions—”
Basil glanced at Father who still sat on the couch, unmoving, then stood up and took the Inspector’s arm.
“Perhaps you could come back another time to ask your questions.” Basil led him out of the room. “Like I said, Mother’s still rather—upset.”
We remained silent, listening to Basil bid our visitor farewell. Mother sat back down when Basil came into the room, and Basil took his seat beside me again.
I looked around at my family—this family that was supposed to be mine—and I knew something else, but I didn’t know how I knew it.
One of us was a murderer.
Another tear slid down my cheek and splashed on my hand—a tear of guilt.
Ford finally looked my way. His eyes burned with disappointment, but I knew he’d never tell.
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